Six police cleared over death of man restrained in London hospital (The Guardian)

Damien Gayle, The Guardian

Olaseni Lewis, 23, died three days after he was restrained for more than 30 minutes by police at Bethlem Royal hospital

Ajibola Lewis, the mother of Olaseni Lewis, addresses campaigners after a procession to Downing Street.
  Photograph: Ajibola Lewis, the mother of Olaseni Lewis, addresses campaigners after a procession to Downing Street.

PC Simon Smith, PC Michael Aldridge, PC Stephen Boyle, DC Laura Curran, PC Ian Simpson and PC James Smith had denied a number of allegations of misconduct and gross misconduct over the death of Olaseni Lewis on 3 September 2010.

An inquest this year found that “excessive force, pain compliance techniques and multiple mechanical restraints” used by police on Lewis “were disproportionate and unreasonable” and were likely to have led to his death from a hypoxic brain injury and cardiorespiratory arrest.  

Assistant chief constable Tony Blaker, who chaired the disciplinary hearing at the Metropolitan police’s Empress State Building in west London said any failings by officers “were matters of performance which would fall to be dealt with by a different statutory procedure, outside the remit of this panel.”

The decision to hold the misconduct hearing without press or public in attendance has been sharply criticised by the parents of the victim.

Lewis, who was 23, died three days after he was subjected to two periods of restraint by police lasting more than 30 minutes. He had no history of violence or mental illness and had been taken to the hospital by his parents after an episode of mental ill-health that began over the August bank holiday weekend.

Although Lewis attended Bethlem Royal hospital for an overnight stay as a voluntary patient, when he tried to leave, at about 9.30pm on 31 August, a doctor called police to ask for their assistance in detaining him under the Mental Health Act.

The struggle with police attempting to lock him in a seclusion room caused the injuries that led to his death. “Mr Lewis’s behaviour changed when he was brought to the doors of the seclusion room,” said Blaker. “It is apparent that Mr Lewis was determined not to be locked in the room.”

Blaker said there was nothing the panel had heard or read to indicate that officers had used force in any way contrary to their training. He said the panel accepted the evidence of officers who said they thought Lewis was feigning unconsciousness during the restraint in an effort to escape the seclusion room that hospital staff had asked them to place him in.

Despite accepting that to onlookers “the restraint of Mr Lewis may have looked chaotic and confused”, Blaker said there was nothing to show a failure of leadership by the officers in charge, adding that in such a situation “officers can and do fulfil roles without them being assigned to them”.

Lewis’s parents, Conrad and Ajibola Lewis, watched as Blaker read out the allegations against the six officers and announced each as “not proved”. Outside, their solicitor, Raju Bhatt, read a statement on their behalf calling for a meeting with Cressida Dick, the Met commissioner, to ensure lessons are learned from the tragedy.

“We had taken Seni to hospital because we thought it was the best place for him when he became ill,” the statement said. “But instead of receiving the help and care he needed, he met with incompetence, hostility and worse: from the management and staff at the hospital, who were so poorly trained that they felt it necessary to call the police to deal with him when he was agitated; and even more so from the police officers who answered that call. […]

“They held him down … in a prolonged restraint which they knew to be dangerous, until he went limp. And even then, instead of treating him as a medical emergency, they simply walked away, leaving Seni on the floor of a locked room, all but dead. That is how we lost our son.”

Deborah Coles, the director of Inquest, said: “Seni was brutalised, neglected and failed and yet no one person at an individual or senior management level has been held to account.

“After a seven-year wait, this is a bitter outcome for Seni’s family. We are a lesser society for a system that fails to hold to account police action leading to these preventable deaths from our community.”

Deputy Assistant Commissioner Richard Martin, in charge of the professionalism portfolio at the Met, said the force was sorry for the loss felt by Lewis’s family and friends.

He said: “The outcome of the coroner’s inquest raised a number of important issues for the MPS, and policing nationally, to consider in relation to restraint techniques and training. I would reassure Mr Lewis’s family that over the seven years that have passed since Mr Lewis died, the way in which the Met would respond to someone in mental health crisis in a medical institute has fundamentally changed.”


Police watchdog to hold misconduct hearing in secret over man’s death (The Guardian)

   and , The Guardian

IPCC criticised for barring press and public from disciplinary hearing of six Met officers over death of Olaseni Lewis

Scotland Yard sign Six Metropolitan police officers are accused of gross misconduct over the death of Olaseni Lewis. Photograph: Dominic Lipinski/PA

A disciplinary hearing of six police officers who have been accused of gross misconduct over the death of a 23-year-old man who died after a prolonged period of restraint seven years ago will begin in secret on Monday.

The decision to hold the IPCC hearing without press or public in attendance takes advantage of a loophole in misconduct regulations and has been sharply criticised by the parents of the victim, Olaseni Lewis.

Aji and Conrad Lewis said it was a “matter of utter shame for the IPCC, serving only to erode our confidence in that organisation or, indeed, in the police”.

New regulations implemented by Theresa May in 2015 require police misconduct hearings to be held in public, although exceptions can be made. However, because Lewis died in September 2010, this one is being held with the press and public excluded, although his family will be able to attend.

Lewis’s death came three days after he was subjected to two periods of restraint by police lasting more than 30 minutes, while in the care of Bethlem Royal hospital in south London.He had been taken to the hospital by his parents after an episode of mental ill health that started over the August bank holiday weekend. He had had no history of violence or mental illness. 

In May an inquest jury concluded that excessive force had contributed to his death. The jury identified a series of failures by police and medical staff, saying: “The excessive force, pain compliance techniques and multiple mechanical restraints were disproportionate and unreasonable. On the balance of probability, this contributed to the cause of death.”

Police failed to act in accordance with their training and recognise his acute behavioural disorder as a medical emergency, the jury added.

Justifying its decision, the IPCC said: “There is a legal presumption that this hearing should be held in private, as it predates new laws requiring the vast majority of gross misconduct proceedings to be held in public.”

The decision to hold the disciplinary hearing in private was taken in August by the IPCC commissioner Cindy Butts.

She acknowledged that “the facts of this case are undoubtedly grave”, but added that the issues were complex. She said the officers and hospital staff had been faced with very difficult circumstances. “It is also clear that the officers are not accused of wilful mistreatment, but rather a series of very serious failures to follow their guidance and training on dealing with situations of this nature.”

The Metropolitan police officers could be dismissed if the accusation of gross misconduct is upheld at the end of the hearing, which is expected to last a month. They are Simon Smith, Michael Aldridge, Stephen Boyle, Laura Curran, James Smith and Ian Simpson.

May took a personal interest in the case while she was home secretary. She ordered a key report into deaths in police custody after meeting the families of Lewis and another man.

Deborah Coles, the director of Inquest, which campaigns for the families of people who have died after contact with the police, said the secrecy was “misguided”. “This is a case of significant public interest and the process for holding police to account must be an open and transparent one. Justice cannot be served behind closed doors.”


Father of James Herbert says justice processes have failed once again as Avon & Somerset Police dismiss allegations of misconduct (INQUEST)

Father of James Herbert says justice processes have failed once again as Avon & Somerset Police dismiss allegations of misconduct

6 September 2017

Misconduct hearing into Insp Justin French
Avon and Somerset Police Headquarters
5 – 6 September

Inspector Justin French of Avon and Somerset Constabulary this week faced a gross misconduct hearing concerning the death of 25 year old James Herbert in 2010. French (acting Inspector at the time) faced allegations of gross misconduct concerning his actions and his account of events following James’s death, including in his evidence to the inquest.

The proceedings followed a reinvestigation into James’s death, after new evidence was brought to light at the inquest.

Avon & Somerset police said ‘A panel, led by an independent Legally Qualified Chair, found allegations of gross misconduct were not proven against T/Insp Justin French’.

Tony Herbert, Father of James Herbert said:
“Over seven years after James’ death, another process has exonerated a police officer. The processes of investigation and justice have once again failed to hold anybody or any institution accountable. This is utterly wrong but predictable. We believe that the decision taken today to exonerate Sergeant French was another stroke of the same whitewash we have been seeing for seven years. Nobody is ever going to be held to account for any aspect of James’ death, and that is something in my heart of hearts I realised quite some time ago.

We look forward to the release later this month of Six Missed Chances, a ground-breaking report by the Independent Police Complaints Commission, which is trying to ensure some learning takes place as a result of James’ wholly avoidable death. If that happens, future lives may be saved. Let us hope that this can happen.”

Deborah Coles, Director of INQUEST said:
“It is difficult to reconcile this outcome with the facts. There was very clear evidence that the account given by Justin French at the inquest was false, yet the panel inexplicably found the allegations of misconduct not proved. Time and again we see false narratives generated by police about the alleged violence of the deceased in order to justify their actions. This case has been 7 years of delay, denial, defensiveness, and poor investigations. We have to question a system that consistently fails to deliver accountability after preventable police related deaths.”


For further information and interview requests, please contact Lucy McKay on 020 7263 1111 or

INQUEST has been working with the family of James Herbert since his death. The family is represented by INQUEST Lawyers Group members Kate Maynard of Hickman and Rose solicitors and Alison Gerry of Doughty Street Chambers.

  • Now the misconduct hearing has concluded, later this month the IPCC will be releasing a report called ‘Six Missed Chances’ using James Herbert’s death as a case study to make national recommendations for the police service to achieve best practice in dealing with vulnerable people with mental health difficulties.
  • Coverage of the proceedings can be found in the Guardian article:‘ Police inspector lied about man with mental health issues who died in cell, hearing told’
  •  Other upcoming cases involving police related deaths include:
    – Three police officers will stand trial at Birmingham Crown Court, facing charges of perjury and perverting the course of justice in relation to the death of Kingsley Burrell on 11 September.
    – A misconduct hearing around the death of Olaseni Lewis will also begin on 11 September.
    – The inquest of Joseph Phuong, who suffered from mental ill health and died following police contact in June 2015 opened at the Royal Courts of Justice, London on 4 September.

Further delays for Home Office review of deaths in custody and the treatment of victims’ families (Channel 4)

Further delays for Home Office review of deaths in custody and the treatment of victims’ families

 Senior Home Affairs Correspondent, Channel 4

A major Home Office review into deaths in custody has been delayed.

“I have been struck by the pain and suffering of families who are still looking for answers.”

The words of Theresa May, spoken when she was Home Secretary back in July 2015.

She was addressing an audience mainly of parents whose sons had died at the hands of police.

This week, many had been expecting the publication of a major review the now-Prime Minister had set up to tackle what she termed the evasiveness and obstruction which has confronted those families in their search for accountability.

But the review has been delayed. It was handed in at the start of the year. Now the Home Office do not intend to publish it for at least another two months.

So many of those who gave evidence to Dame Elish Angiolini’s inquiry were convinced to do so by Ms May’s words of intent.

Yet they’ve heard nothing since. One, the mother of Olaseni Lewis (pictured above and below) a 23-year-old graduate who suffered a restraint death in 2010, told me they have had no contact with current Home Secretary, Amber Rudd.

“I would have thought she might have asked to meet us. Not heard anything,” she said.

By extraordinary timing, five of these death in custody cases arrive at some form of hearing over the next fortnight.

They are made up of three gross misconduct hearings against a total of 10 police officers from 3 different forces, a criminal trial of 3 police officers and an inquest.

They include two restraint deaths back in 2010 of men suffering mental health problems, a third who died in the caged rear of a police van after allegedly being bitten by a police dog then tasered, and another again involving someone detained under the Mental Health Act.

All bar one will be open to public scrutiny. The one involving the death of 23-year-old Olaseni Lewis, which has taken seven years to get to the point of holding Metropolitan Police officers to account, will be held behind closed doors.

It’s acknowledged at issue are allegations of ‘very serious failures’; that it is a high profile case; that there is great concern and low levels of confidence among BME communities about police treatment of mental health sufferers;  and there are grave matters here.

But not grave enough, it would seem, for the Independent Police Complaints Commission to allow proceedings to take place in public.

So If Theresa May’s review was part of her social justice mission, then there is a real risk it will be too late to have any real meaning.